Recently the legislature of Indiana passed a bill known as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, which governor Mike Pence has signed. The content of the legislation by the most widely held understanding (by both supporters and its opposition) suggests a state enshrined right of businesses to reject potential customers on the basis of religious disagreement. Naturally, a storm has erupted about this, and I’m driven to provide thought on the matter. Here goes…
As a skeptic of government existing at all, it’s quite natural that if questioned whether government should be able to require upon penalty of force that people broaden their market, my answer would be no. I’m obviously not a fan of those who would turn away business on such ridiculous and spitefully counterproductive (money is money, after all) grounds, and wholeheartedly support efforts at boycotting and otherwise shaming such establishments. This is simply because I prefer a society that frowns upon bigotry in all its forms. I’m for reaction against it short of state action because I do not buy into the Hobbesian case that without a centralized force wielding a club we will all collapse into a heap of Assholery and violence — after all, there’s plenty of that in the world we currently inhabit of states.
Speaking of the world of statism, within that there is one angle that in the course of discussions about discrimination over the years I’ve come to look at in another light. Take the reactions last time accommodations for an Other group in America were an issue: the fights against racial segregation. Blacks merely existing at some businesses was considered an act of defiance, of civil disobedience, but there was more than the owner to worry about. At the time, if blacks were in a place designated for whites only, then calling the police was available as a remedy to salve their open racism — “yeah, there’s a nigger at my table and he won’t leave!”, and along come the pigs, like it was natural. Cops, as we all know, are employed by local government, which means taxes pay their wages. Which means that the hypothetical gay couple dragged out of a photo studio or black person thrown out of Woolworths is footing the bill for their attackers.
Considering the justified libertarian critiques against being forced to pay for, say, military conquest, at the least isn’t the critique against this at home arguably understandable? I’m not saying you have to agree with it, I’m saying that, to my reading of situation, it isn’t far fetched. I’m still not enamored with the desire to do business with people who hate your very essence for reasons I’ve described before, but it’s there.
As for the talk by backers of such legislation about not wishing to do business with people who violate their beliefs, frankly I question how realistic such a principle even is. It’s 2015, think about the myriad transactions we take part in every day, and ask yourself how many people involved in them would pass your litmus test. Who would you be limited to interacting with if all money from those who disagree with something you care about is dirty? What would we be denying each other? Have these people ever thought it out?
Perhaps if one wished to really walk the walk, they could denounce the heathens, grab a few fellow travelers & go start a commune or something. But for as much as we gripe about society, most of us aren’t that brave. Sometimes we want to eat takeout.